By Chanda Temple
Atlanta businesswoman and philanthropist Aisha “Pinky” Cole was so impressed by the hundreds of people who stood in line for hours just to get one of her Slutty Vegan burgers when her food truck pulled into Birmingham in 2020, that she knew she had to set up shop in the Magic City.
“Outside of Atlanta, y’all have been one of our biggest supporters, and I’m looking forward to being able to opening in Birmingham and really putting our footprint in the Woodlawn area,’’ she said. “I’m confident that we will be successful there. I think it will be a win-win for everybody because between our community work and what we do and what we can offer the City of Birmingham, I think everybody will be happy.’’
She said the Woodlawn location is set to open “very soon,’’ adding that they are currently hiring managers, cashiers, line cooks, and other openings.
Cole founded her plant-based eatery with the unforgettable name in 2018. Today, she has five locations in Georgia. Her Birmingham location will be her sixth store. She also has plans to open stores in New York and beyond. Her four-year-old company is valued at $100 million.
Asked why would someone want to work for Pinky Cole, she said, “Why wouldn’t they want to work for Pinky Cole? Pinky Cole is crazy, off the wall, authentic, real, fun and building a billion-dollar empire. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?’’
Cole said that she looked at a lot of locations for the Birmingham store but nothing felt right except for the space she saw in the historic area of Woodlawn on 55th Place. Birmingham realtor Abra Barnes of Barnes and Associates served as her broker. Cole bought the building, which formerly served as homes to a hair salon and music tech lab, from REV Birmingham.
Mashonda Taylor, executive director of Woodlawn United, served as the vision keeper for the Woodlawn community, updating Cole on the area’s economic development and residents.
“Woodlawn is excited to welcome Slutty Vegan and really excited to be a part of this new renaissance of energy happening within our central business district,’’ Taylor said. “What she represents is Black excellence, and she will be a mentor for many of the businesses that have started over the past few years and to come.’’
The Woodlawn location will be open every day except Sunday and Monday. Store hours will be announced later. Fans will be able to get all the same foods that are sold in the Atlanta stores, including the popular “One Night Stand,’’ which features a vegan patty, topped with vegan bacon, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and “slutty sauce’’ on a vegan Hawaiian bun. They also serve other plant-based burger combos, vegan Philly cheesesteaks and plant-based chicken sandwiches that come with big personalities just like Cole’s.
The Woodlawn location will not be a sit-down restaurant, but more like what fans see at the metro Atlanta area locations: get in line, place an order at the window and leave with fresh food and a Slutty Vegan experience like no other. There will be laughter. There will be random connections with strangers standing in line with you. And there will be pride – pride in supporting Cole for bringing more vegan options to Birmingham and pride for Woodlawn.
“She’s coming into a community that has real strong roots and pride already. They will support her and they have surrounded her,’’ Taylor said. “She is successful just simply because she is Pinky, but she will be successful here because this community is going to support her.’’
Cole, 34, started out working in her Slutty Vegan kitchen for 2.5 years. Today, with so many deals before her, she’s handling operations away from the kitchen. “I have a whole operations team that allows me to be able to do other things and advance the business,’’ she said. Her Slutty Vegan chicken dips and spinach artichoke dips are sold in metro Atlanta Target stores. Another deal is under way with another major retail chain. And her first vegan cookbook from Simon and Schuster will drop on Nov. 15.
“It won’t be recipes from inside the store,’’ Cole said of the cookbook. “All of the recipes are inspired by the meat eaters. This book is specifically for the meat eaters, with vegan options. There are a lot of cool surprises in there. My story’s in there. I have some celebrities shout outs in there.’’
“It’s cool to be able to create a book,’’ said Cole. “We just started as a restaurant. I never imagined this to turn into what it has turned into.’’
She does all of this while also being a mother to a 1-year-old daughter and a newborn son with fiancée, Derrick Hayes. She got engaged during the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans earlier this month, and she has set a wedding date for June 8, 2023. So, how does Cole run a multi-million dollar business, grow her enterprise and manage a family? “I’ve got a lot of help. That’s the only way I’d be able to do this, with a lot of help’’ she said. “I have two nannies. I have two assistants.”
Cole also runs the Pinky Cole Foundation in Atlanta, which is focused on helping people win in life, with finances and pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. She said Birmingham residents can expect to see something similar here.
“We will find the problems in the area, local schools that need help, anybody who needs help and what we will do is we’ll create programs and we’ll offer our support and our resources to be able to make the community better,’’ she said. “That’s what we do.’’
Early on as a child growing up in Baltimore, Cole knew she wanted to create financial freedom for herself. Today, the Clark Atlanta University graduate has done that and so much more.
“I love Birmingham and I can’t wait to come to Birmingham and cut that ribbon,’’ she said. “I’m confident that Birmingham will show me just as much love if not more than the City of Atlanta. Thank you in advance.’’
To apply for a job at the Birmingham store, check out SluttyVeganATL on social media and send resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Cole’s story, check out this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnxD2-zg5XM